It is a two-team race in the AFC South between the Tennessee Titans and the Indianapolis Colts. Both teams have been impressive in different ways this season. The Titans started off the season 5-0 mainly due to their offense lead by quarterback Ryan Tannehill and running back Derrick Henry. The Colts on the other hand have one of the best defenses in the league and have been able to win games thanks to its defensive line.
But who will take the AFC South division between the two teams?
Last Year’s Underdog Team Turning into a Top Dog Team
Last season, the Titans surprised the NFL with not only making it to the playoffs, but defeating Tom Brady’s New England Patriots, Lamar Jackson’s Baltimore Ravens and making it one game away from the Super Bowl in 2019. This year the Titans have become a top tier team. After starting the season undefeated for five games, the Titans have looked like a solid team all season.
Tannehill has taken full control of the team after taking over for Marcus Mariota early last season. This season Tannehill has totaled 3,209 passing yards, 65.8 percent completion rate, 28 touchdown passes and five interceptions. With three games left in the season, Tannehill has proven that he is not a one season quarterback.
Tannehill gives most of the credit to his team for his success in the past year. “When you have that combination of guys who want to win, want to find a way to get better, don’t get chewed up by the grind, but keep pushing through it and find a way to get better and play our best football late in the season, that mentality is contagious and has me coming to work excited each and every day,” says Tannehill to Yahoo! Sports.
One of the players Tannehill should thank the most is Derrick Henry. He is arguable one of the best running backs in the league and could have a say for NFL offensive player of the year. Henry is number one in rushing yards in the league with 1,532 and number one in rushing touchdowns with 14. Henry has a chance on Sunday to inch closer to becoming only the eighth player in NFL history to finish the season with 2,000+ rushing yards.
The only weak spot on the Titans team is their defense. They are last in third-down conversion percentage and touchdown percentage allowed in the end zone, according to Sports Illustrated. Linebacker Harold Landry has been the key to the defense with five sacks on the year.
The Titans’ next three games will be against the Detroit Lions, the NFC North champions Green Bay Packers and the Houston Texans. It will be a difficult one for the Titans defense to try to stop the explosive offense of the Packers. If they take two out of the three wins, they will end the season with an 11-5 record, better than the 9-7 record from 2019.
The Indianapolis Colts are last year’s Tennessee Titans
The Colts are one of the surprise teams this season. Tied for first in the AFC South, the Colts have a good chance to make the playoffs for the first time since 2018. Veteran quarterback Philip Rivers has had a solid season though dealing with a struggling offensive line, but most of their wins are thanks to the Colts defense.
The heart of the Colts defense begins with linebacker Darius Leonard. Leonard has a total of 97 tackles this season with two sacks. He has had consistent performances all season and has been a leader to the defensive line. He is also not afraid of competition as he is motivated by it.
“Who is quitting on you? Who’d going to keep playing? Are we going to lay down or step up? That’s the mindset you have to have as a competitor. If you lay down, if you’re not still trying to get the crowd into it, you’re still not trying to make plays, then you’re not a competitor. You suck,’’ says Leonard to Fox 59.
The Colts have not looked great offensively this season, however it has improved in the last couple of games. Rookie running back Jonathan Taylor has been impressive with 759 rushing yards and six rushing touchdowns so far this season. Wide receiver T.Y Hilton is beginning to look like his pro-bowl self with 46 receptions, 604 yards gained, and four touchdown catches on the season.
Rivers has struggled in some games this season with minor injuries. At the age of 39-years old, he spent most of his career with the Chargers without a Super Bowl win. If the Colts can improve some aspects in their offense, they can look to be an underdog heading into the playoffs.
The Colts next three games will be against the Houston Texans, Pittsburgh Steelers, and the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Colts can also end the season 11-5 if they win two out of the three games, improving their record from last season when they ended the season 7-9 and missed out on the playoffs.
If Both Teams End 11-5, Who Will Take the Division?
If both teams end with the same record, the Titans would take the tie breaker and win the division over the Colts. The Colts can only win the division if they win more games than the Titans between the next three games. It will all come down to Week 17 to see who will be crowned AFC South champions. Regardless, both teams have a high chance making the playoffs, whether it is through the wild card or as a division leader.